“We shouldn’t require our politicians to be movie stars. Then again, we’re all influenced by charisma. It’s hard not to be. We all collectively fall for it.” – Julianne Moore
The ability to be “likable” has been a long-sought after personal trait. Long before we could remember, we’ve learned that being likable gets us rewarded.
We learned that we’d get treats from our parents and adults when we made them smile, and were sent to our room if we upset others.
We learned that being part of a group meant support and affirmation, and being alone (probably) meant that there was “something wrong” with us – we were probably infected with the plague but we didn’t know – that’s why everybody shunned us.
In essence, being likable meant that we would get something we wanted – sometimes way faster and easier.
It was reward, it felt good… and it helps us get ahead
So, here thirteen ways to help you do just that:
1. Forget about Hogging Attention
People love it when they feel cared for and important. That’s why so many of us are programmed to ‘want’ attention.
The irony is that the more you try to hog attention for yourself, the more off-putting you become.
Conversely, you become more likable as you give people the time, space and attention to share who they are and what’s important to them.
Think back to a time when you’ve had some of the best conversations with some of the most remarkable and charming people in your life – weren’t they the ones who gave you the space and time to speak your mind, talk about your day and how you felt? Weren’t they also the ones who picked up on what you said and related back to it? I’m guessing that you were probably the one who did most of the talking, and they did most of the listening.
Being likable doesn’t really require lots of work, really. Sometimes, it’s as easy as reversing the role of the speaker and listener.
2. Forget about Pleasing Everybody
“I’ve learned that it’s not our job to make other people happy” – Steve Harvey, American Comedian and
Truly likable people are comfortable with who they are. They are relaxed and comfortable in their own skin, their strengths and weaknesses.
They recognize that no matter how hard they try, they will never be perfect, and they’re comfortable being vulnerable and being real.
Brene Brown, a psychologist and researcher who studied and wrote extensively on the topic of being vulnerable and authenticity, shares that learning about and being able to accept our vulnerabilities actually helps strengthen our personal identities, but also the way we relate and connect with people.
Whilst being “real” may not help you win everybody over, it will certainly help you win over the people who matter – and I, and I believe like many others, have learned through experience that being authentic and sincere is a big draw when it comes to likability as a person.
3. Forget about Where You ‘Should’ Be At and Focus on Where You Are At
The Dalai Lama once shared that people have a tendency to think about work, when they are at pleasure, and think about pleasure when they are at work.
The result is that the person finds neither satisfaction nor happiness when they are at work or at play.
Our inability to be present affects our internal balance, without which we are unable to experience peace of mind and joy.Advertising
Being constantly distracted also affects our ability to pay due attention to the people we are with, and prevents you from fully and freely expressing who you are.
Being present – being in the moment – provides you with an immense advantage when it comes to connecting and relating to people, and we will do well not to squander that opportunity.
4. Forget about How Much Money You’ve Got
The worth and dignity of a person transcends beyond the the amount of money they have in their wallet.
Yet, there are people in the world who appear to measure the worth of a person by the amount of money they have.
If you’ve seen this social experiment, you’d probably agree on who the dirt bags are – and there’s a fair chance they’re not very likeable with the average person either.
The irony of the matter is that to those who judge others based on how much money they have, they too will be judged by others (and themselves even) when they come across a richer person like them.
Truly likable people do not measure the worth of a person based on money – they relate to the common man or woman and see money as a tool to get things done.
Manny Pacquiao, anybody?
5. Forget About Hoarding . . .
Don’t get me wrong. Money and food are important. So are friends, family, people, moments, memories and emotions.
Some things come with a price. Others are priceless.
After fighting the best part of a decade crafting my career since my days in college, I’ve found the last four months of my life to be the most rewarding and hugely invigorating.
That’s not because I’ve finally achieved financial freedom. Far from it.
Rather, I’ve learned to invest some of my best resources by giving it all away to the people who matter.
That means, as a career speaker, sharing with a group of people, investing more time to catch up with old friends and even investing time and money to hang out with family.
While I was pleasantly surprised by how rewarding it was to actually spend more time giving away, I wasn’t surprised when I realized the effect that had on me and the people around me – I was happy, and I was able to bring that emotion to the people around me.
Moral of the story: There’s a higher chance that people like hanging around real, happy people. Don’t you?
6. Forget About Listening to Reply; Listen to Relate
“Nobody cares about how much you know, until they know how much you care”
Too often, we get so trapped in trying to respond with something clever to say, that we neglect to consider and relate to how another person is feeling
People are essentially emotional creatures, and the best way to connect with an individual, is to relate to how he/she feels.Advertising
So, instead of responding to what a person says, with what you know, it is probably more prudent to consider first how they are feeling and why they are saying what they are saying before responding.
Better still if you can draw upon a similar experience and relate to similar emotions.
I’ve personally experienced the benefit of having others open up and share more with me, simply by relating to and talking about how they feel. The amount of air time I had compared to the other party was low, but the level of connection the other party felt towards me couldn’t have been higher, and I credit to to actually listening to relate.
7. Forget About Whining (All the Time)
Nobody likes to feel lower than they are really feeling, especially if they’re already feeling pretty high.
So going to a party or gathering and dousing your negative emotions on an crowd is a huge no-no.
Sure, it’s fine if you gripe and rant a little, or update your friends on how you’re coping with the lows in your life
Yet, it’s our personal responsibility to manage our emotions and learn when it is to stop.
So if you must blow off some steam, learn to turn off the tap and redirect attention and conversation to a happier subject for discussion.
People like and are drawn to other well-balanced and mature individuals.
8. Forget about Keeping Score. . .
Keeping track of how much you’ve done for a person, or how much they owe you is not going to help you become more likable. Far from it.
Nobody likes a calculative nut, who goes the distance to make sure everything between you and him is accounted for.
No, a relationship is not an audit, it’s not a test and it doesn’t require a score.
There’ll be times when you’ll pick up the tab, and there’ll be times when they do.
Reciprocity is like a hug and a handshake – it requires both parties to reach out to each other and a deeper connection is made.
The only time you see a scoreboard is during a competition and I can assure you that both camps aren’t the best of friends when the scores are being taken.
9. Forget about being a Perfectionist
So often, we try so hard at trying to be perfect, and expecting things to be perfect that we forget that to err is human.
That’s not to say that we allow should ourselves to be slipshod, especially at our work. Far from it.
Rather, this is a reminder that, whilst we hold ourselves to highest of standards, we should cut ourselves and others some slack when mistakes are made.
Freeing ourselves up from being a perfectionist allows our moods and minds to relax and better appreciate spontaneity. We move away from facts and numbers, and more towards people and emotions – and hence connect better.
Nobody appreciates being around high-strung people.Advertising
10. Forget about Bonding Over Your Phone
Texts, Email, Apps and Games. . . technology has helped bring people together, yet it has also separated so many of us at the same time.
There are so many distractions placed in the power of our hands these days that good, old-fashioned conversations have begun to fade away.
Therein lies the paradox of communication and relationships; the more we try to express ourselves with the help of technology, the harder it is for us to build deeper and meaningful connections.
Relationship experts like Gary Chapman and Brene Brown share that healthy relationships require time to build, and that time (and patience) is needed for people to explore and learn more about each other – a concept I term as “building depth.”
It is my assertion that distractions, such as those from our mobile phones, promote our exploration of “breadth” in experience and less understanding in “depth” in relationships and personalities.
The good news here, however, is that a remedy is fairly simple: dedicate no-phone time during your interactions with people, and give them your full attention.
Leadership speaker, John C. Maxwell wrote that people want to know that they are “appreciated, understood and respected. . .” One cannot feel respected, appreciated and will feel far less understood if the person they’re speaking to prefers to hang out with a machine/device rather than them.
Likable people understand that, and choose to give a part of their lives – time – to people they are speaking to.
That’s a small gesture that makes a huge difference in the way you connect with people and how others perceive and receive you.
11. Forget about Passing Judgement
Forming opinions of people is a double-edged sword. Our ability to “read” people is a survival instinct which helps us identify quickly who are the people we “can” trust, and how are those we “can’t.”
I’ll be the first to raise my hand and confess that I’ve been guilty of this many times. It’s a job hazard.
Yet, recognizing that I’m prone to this, has helped me set aside my opinions of people, and have enabled me to explore and learn from and more about the people I speak to.
The ability to set aside opinions of people has helped me project a sincere curiosity in the different personalities, strengths and the unique stories behind each person.
Everybody has a unique story to tell. It is our responsibility to sieve out those stories, manage how we behave, and derive constructive lessons from it.
In the rare instances when you encounter an obnoxious brat however, it is perfectly fine to walk away.
Just be careful though, that if you find 9 out of 10 people to be dead boring or negative – the problem might probably lie with you!
12. Forget about Winning the Argument
Unless you’re taking part in a debating contest or your job actually involves trying to win an argument, it is perfectly fine NOT to win an argument an all the time.
Some would say that it’s that argument that makes life interesting, and that may be true.
However, it is also true that many people hate to be seen as “wrong”, or worse to feel that they are being “stonewalled” and “trapped” in a corner because all their arguments to escape have been sealed.Advertising
Likable people are capable of engaging others in a myriad of topics and explore various perspectives to a matter.
They are able to see the serious and funny side of different ideas, and aren’t afraid to explore perspectives that are different from their own.
That, is a form of adventure – and brings pleasure not to himself, but also to others.
So, when they converse or “argue” with others, it’s not so much about winning, but more of learning, exploring… and above all having fun.
Wouldn’t you agree? No? Sure, whatever you say; you win.
13. Forget about Trying to Get Something In Return
I know I promised that we’d be able to get what we want if we were likable.
Yet, the paradox to this is to actually expect something in return.
When it comes to being likable, people want to know that they are important.
We have all been primed to beware of the stranger who comes up to us and offer us candy when we were a child – we know that something’s not right, and we’ll have our defenses up.
To be nice to somebody just because you want something from them is a form of treason, because it suggests that you merely see the relationship with them as a transaction.
It’s superficial, it’s easy, and it’s cheap.
Likable people see relationships differently. They care genuinely for others, many times giving freely to others and expecting nothing in return.
That’s not to say that they enjoy being taken for granted, no.
Rather, they enjoy giving and blessing others with what they have, within their means, and come out all the richer for it.
I’ve learned, that when people like these do require help, they receive much more in return, not merely because they’ve asked for it, but because others feel genuinely inclined to reciprocate.
Through my research, work and experience, I’ve come to believe that building deep meaningful connections and relationships is probably one of the most sought after yet most underrated skills and abilities of our time.
That ability to be likable, not only helps us in our work, but also nourishes our relationships with people.
As an entrepreneur and educator who started his career at the age of 20, ten years ago, I’ve used some of these techniques to great effect. They have helped to accelerate my career and personal achievements – which is why I believe they too can work for you.
Now as we go about our work and life, I sincerely hope that they too work as well for you as they have for me over the last ten years.
It is my hope as well, that as you connect with more people and open more opportunities, that you too can hone, share and spread your gifts with those who need it.
At the end of the day, you don’t have to be likable to get ahead, but it certainly won’t hurt if you are.
Featured photo credit: atrapadoenunpueblo via flickr.com
Last Updated on November 11, 2019
Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?
A dysfunctional family is more than disagreement or constant arguments. Anything from plain neglect, to abuse and even verbal and physical violence is the everyday experience of those who are part of a dysfunctional family.
You know how this looks:
- Parents constantly comparing children.
- Siblings in conflict because of tolerated bullying.
- Domestic violence.
- And many others.
For all the members, this will mean emotional pain and even trauma; which, in case it doesn’t get resolved, will have a detrimental effect on the individual’s personality and development.
Needless to say, the younger members are the most vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean the parents are out of danger, as most commonly the parents play the roles of abuser-codependent, and in some cases, both parts inflicting pain on one another.
Most like to think these problems stem from deep-seated issues, and that therefore it’s pretty much impossible to deal with them.
This is only true for families not willing to do what it takes, for if only a single member is determined and knows how to do it, the whole family can do a lot of progress.
In this article, I’ll break down for you the basic steps of fixing a dysfunctional family. Although it may seem hopeless, it is possible to turn things around.
If you have ever felt in this position, or if you know somebody who is, this article is for you.
Table of Contents
How to fix a dysfunctional family
In a few words the solution for a dysfunctional family lies in dropping the ego, focusing on the solution, switching blame for responsibility and doing the work as a unity, for the good of the whole family.
And this will accomplish things you once only saw as a dream.
Dropping the ego? Switching blame for responsibility? Doing the work? What does all this mean?
It’s simple. In a nutshell, it’s that which will allow you to turn a dysfunctional family into a functional one.
Let’s take a look at how exactly this can be done. And near the end we will also talk about what you can do in a dysfunctional family with cynical traits.
Dysfunctional families where not only problems are well-known, but also nobody seems to want a fix or openly decide to perpetuate the harmful behaviors. Such as the case of abuse and physical violence.
There is also a solution for these, it’s just not what you are expecting…
Dysfunctional… Or just average?
Most families are dysfunctional, though at varying degrees of dysfunctionality.
The milder cases, are just marked by “typical” comically-shrouded bullying or lack of interest in other members’ development or wellbeing.
You can know a family is dysfunctional if their interactions are anything different than cooperation, solidarity, care and support. But let’s get more specific…
A dysfunctional family is one in which members directly or indirectly suffer emotional and/or physical harm inflicted by other members of their family. Most commonly, perpetrated by the parents.
Even harmful actions as “passive” as neglect, which is inflicted by inaction rather than action, signifies a dysfunction within the family.
Dysfunctional families have conflicts such as:
- Unrealistic expectations
- Lack of interest and time spent together
- Lack of empathy
- Unequal or unfair treatment
- Disrespect towards boundaries
- Control Issues
- Verbal and physical abuse
- Violence and even sexual misconduct or abuse
The link to productivity
You may think a dysfunctional family has very little or nothing to do with personal productivity, but you would be wrong in thinking this way…
If a person is not emotionally well, she will not be able to perform as desired, as the emotional harm that has been inflicted will hinder everyday performance in the way of inability to concentrate, lack of mental clarity and low levels of inspiration, motivation and discipline.
Having a functional family does exactly the opposite: It creates productive members with no emotional baggage.
How to turn it around
When you’re part of a dysfunctional family you know it. You can quickly identify in other members the behaviors and conflicts that create the dysfunction.
But just in case you’re having trouble telling functional from dysfunctional I will tell you the following:
One of the easiest ways you can recognize if you are in a dysfunctional family is to survey your won feelings.
We often overlook this, but have you stopped to ask yourself how you feel?
As cheesy as it may sound it really sheds a lot of light on the subject.
What behaviors, actions and attitudes in your family you wish were better?
Do you think certain behaviors and actions from your family marked you in the past?
Sadly, we cannot go back to the past to correct it. But we can do a lot in the present…
Correction is possible
In order to fix a dysfunctional family, you must start by putting an end to the behaviors and actions that are affecting you.
All members of the dysfunctional family have one issue in common: They don’t put a stop to the harm.
Whenever you feel your boundaries being overstepped there is just one single word you have to remember: STOP.
This is the door to a better, more functional family, because after this, comes the fix.
But first you have to identify and make others know where exactly lies the problem.
So go ahead and fearlessly start with “Stop”, followed by your expression of dissatisfaction.
Putting it to work in real life
In real life it would be something like this:
“OK, stop! Every time you belittle me I feel you don’t care. I need attention and respect, and it is your responsibility as my family to provide them to me”
“Stop. When you compare me with my cousin it hurts, I feel like I don’t matter and that’s not ok. I ask you to stop doing it.
“Please stop. When you start yelling all respect is lost and it turns into a battle of who can do it louder. Don’t raise your voice and let’s work this out the way humans do”.
As you can see, here you start by putting a stop to the toxic behavior when it arises. And afterwards you verbalize why it’s wrong and what needs of you need to be fulfilled.
This is what you have to remember:
2-Why it’s wrong?
3-What you need.
And this will also work well in case you need to do it for another family member.
It’s a family thing
A dysfunctional family cannot be fixed by one member alone.
Yes, a single member can initiate progress and be the leader of the change. But in order to completely become functional all members must contribute to the solution.
In other words, you will need cooperation…
So don’t be afraid of asking for it!
Approach your family member and ask to be listened.
We sometimes feel our needs are “not that important” or we simply believe they won’t listen. But thinking like this would be like being defeated at an unfought battle.
You will be amazed by how much people listen when you voice your needs, especially if it implies showing yourself open, vulnerable and in need.
It’s not a free-for-all battle
In order to get your family to cooperate, first you must fix your individual relationships with every member of the family. Remember: Relationships are always between two people, and two people only.
No matter how complex, the quality of a multi-member relationship (like a family) will always depend on the quality of the individual relationships.
Once you have straightened the relationship with every member of the dysfunctional family you will be able to better communicate with other members and help in the betterment of their individual relationship.
And this is where we will talk about the fix itself. The one I mentioned in the introduction…
1. Drop the ego
Wherever there is conflict there is ego.
You cannot fix a relationship where there is ego, because the ego will want to win. Always. Yours and the other person.
Ego craves control and satisfaction, and in many cases, to establish dominance.
What does this have to do with a dysfunctional family? Everything. Ego will interfere with every plan you have to fix it.
It will make people suborn and defensive. And it will also make them drop responsibility. This is why, the first step is to drop the ego.
After you make sure you are not going to allow your ego to interfere you must work to make the other person do the same. How? By speaking from the heart…
Tell the other person how important all this is to you.
Tell the other person that it’s not a matter of arguing, but just working things out together.
Point out how it is not possible for you to do it alone.
And ask for sincere attention without any desire of opposition, because what you are doing is by no means in the hopes of harming the other person, but just to better the relationship and stop the damage being dealt to you.
You will have to point out the mistakes you need corrected, that’s for sure. And that leads me to the next point…
2. Not blame, but responsibility
When talking about others’ mistakes we often use an accusatory tone. And that’s natural, it’s what things should be like if ego was not present.
But since we are all creatures of ego, this immediately brings the shields up. And then unsheathes the swords…
When we blame others they automatically enter a defensive state, and this only leads to a failed negotiation.
What you need to do is to shift from blame to responsibility. And even that will have to be done carefully!
Instead of telling them off or demanding change or complaining, calmly point what the problem with their behavior is.
As much as this feels contradictory, also make them feel understood. You know how difficult it is to accept a mistake, so just make them feel it’s no big fuzz… which does not mean it’s ok, but it takes tension off.
You will do something like this:
“Hello dad. Can I talk with you for a minute? I really need to tell you something.
I have been feeling pretty sad lately and I know this is something you do care about.
You see, whenever I talk about my accomplishments you mention something else that makes my achievement pale in comparison.
I know you don’t do this intentionally and I know you might have not realized this until now, but I want to let you know this really brings me down.
It would mean a lot to me if you could stop doing it, and it would help better our relationship, because this has already forced me to distance myself from you. And I don’t want that, I want a good, healthy relationship with you”
What happened here?
We started off with making it something important, something that needs both time and attention. Then we openly show ourselves vulnerable, just as we are.
We also mention why he should listen, and shove our feelings there again, because they are important.
We describe the issue with no attachment and with no hostile intention. It’s just a description.
And then we take the blame off. Just before we assign responsibility without actually saying it.
You are not blaming him directly, but you are pointing out the inevitable fact that his actions are causing a dysfunctionality. He is now responsible for changing.
This is what “switching blame for responsibility” means. What comes next? Doing the work!
3. Doing the work
What would any of this mean if, in the end, nothing changes? Exactly, nothing!
This is why you must follow up with every change that needs to be done.
Do so in a manner that is not hostile. Bring it up in a casual manner, and emphasizing how you both reached an agreement and how that is important to the family.
If the person doesn’t follow up don’t hesitate to bring it up again, and tell them you feel disappointed that your honest try at it was not listened.
It may even be a subject in itself, and therefore the need for another conversation.
“When you go back to old habits it shows that you didn’t really care about what I said. But back in real life you just reinforce how much contempt you show towards me and my feelings.
I talk with you because I care. Because although it would be easier for me to just distance myself from you I rather do my part in nurturing this relationship.
But there is just so much I can do, if you refuse to do your part I can do nothing else.”
You need very clear and positive communication in order to make this work.
Love is all you need
You must remember that in order for a dysfunctional family to become functional, all the work needs to stem from love.
That is the single one requirement for all this to work: Love.
And what happens if it simply is not there?
What happens if, nobody is willing to do what it takes?
What happens if a member of the family refuses to change and is happy with the harm he or she is dealing?
There is only one thing you can do:
To break away.
Let’s be honest, people, especially adults, are very difficult to change.
There is a Jewish proverb that I love, which sums it up like this:
“We spend the rest of our lives trying to unlearn what we learned before we were 7”
If you find it very hard to change the very traits that make your family dysfunctional or if it’s simply impossible, you still have a card up your sleeve…
Although nobody likes to beak away from family members, we must remember we have a responsibility with ourselves as individuals, before any relationship with anyone.
You have the responsibility of making yourself happy and free. Because you matter as an individual, regardless of any relationships you have, be it family, friendship or romantic.
So in case you are dealing with a family member who is simply unwilling to change take both physical and emotional distance.
What do I mean?
Learn, first, to take their damage in a detached manner.
Don’t let it hurt you further. Instead take a deep breath and distance yourself emotionally.
Don’t be attached to feelings such as “Why doesn’t she love me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” or “If he wasn’t like that my life would be perfect”.
Simply refuse to keep participating in the emotional downward spiral and accept, even if it’s painful” that there is nothing you can do. Accept that even without that relationship you are whole, you are worthy of love and respect.
They are their responsibility and you are yours. So decide what is best for you.
Realize it only comes down to two possibilities:
I keep the relationship and therefore accept the abuse. Or…
I choose my peace of mind.
And don’t let your mind fool you. We often think that since we all are imperfect, we must take the good and the bad behaviors of people. And we are especially forgiving towards our family…
Well, guess what? We are also responsible adults who are aware and must own to their acts. Never excuse abuse or violence or transgression towards you or anybody else.
Choose your happiness and if possible, also distance yourself physically, as it will increase your peace of mind tenfold.
How to prevent it
There are two key concepts you must bear in mind in order to prevent the dysfunctionality of a family:
- To be completely aware of one’s own mistakes and not allow them to impact others and…
- To make sure our SO’s are also on the same channel before creating a family (i.e. having children)
Dysfunctional families are the product of irresponsible paternity, for the decades-long unresolved emotional conflict ends up surfacing in the family inevitably, and it will for sure harm those who least deserve it: Innocent children.
You may notice we went from talking about family, to talking about individual relationships, to talking about you. We went from “them” to “us” to “me”.
Why? Because in the end you have the power to fix a dysfunctional family. To correct the mistakes you have in yours and to prevent dysfunctionalities if you don’t have a family but plan to create one.
Priorities and clear thought
You may be part of a dysfunctional family, but that does not mean you are powerless or that you have to suffer the consequences.
You learned today how it’s all a matter of priorities and thinking clearly.
You learned that, if love exists, everything is possible. You learned that even when there is no love and no fix for your dysfunctional family, there are still things you can do. It’s a matter of choosing your peace, because you deserve it.
Everything will be better if you apply this knowledge. If you talk to that problematic family member. If you help them see the harm they are doing. If you make sure they do change and treat you the way you need to be treated…
If you choose yourself over that toxic family member. If you refuse to justify the harm that others can do to yourself. If you realize the most important relationship you have is with yourself.
And lastly, that you also have to be aware of your actions and be open to criticism. Because we might be unknowingly harming others. And that would be us creating a dysfunctionality. Don’t allow it to happen.
Dysfunctional families are not impossible to fix. It just takes love, cooperation and responsibility.
But if you tried and those elements are not present, just choose yourself instead.
Featured photo credit: Xavier Mouton Photographie via unsplash.com